Chere Julie, dear Jules. (Part 17)
Jules Lablagues xx
Ma chere Julie,
When I read that you were being threatened with imprisonment and of your shortage of money I felt very guilty for not having sent payment for the dress earlier. I know that it is not strictly legal but I have taken the liberty to enclose cash with this letter. You must take it to the bank and exchange it for Stirling. I have enclosed more than the agreed amount as I feel you are not being fair on yourself. I asked Jacqueline what she thought would be a suitable price for such a garment and her estimation was much higher than your own. You must also get yourself a lawyer and my cousins might be able to help you there as they retain one of the finest legal minds in England. He is also a friend of the family. Just a phone call from one of my cousins and his lawyer would be knocking on your door within the day. It would cost you nothing. Please consider it. If you have your own lawyer with whom you are satisfied make sure he pleads your case sensibly.
I do not understand what you have done wrong and the concept of benefits and signing on confuses me. Why are you not allowed to do alterations to clothes? How can this possibly come under the heading of fraud? I am sure there must be a mistake and you are worrying for nothing. I wish I could be there to still your fears but I am afraid my presence would serve no useful purpose. If there is anything I can do to help you, you only have to ask. It pains me deeply to read of your troubles.
We, too, have our troubles but I am reluctant to share them with you and they seem, anyway, to dwindle to insignificance when I read of your own. Genevieve is fine but she worried us greatly for a day or two. Her food remained untouched for three days outside her door and we were on the point of calling a man to come and force the door open when I noticed that a small plate of hors d'oeuvres had disappeared. I knocked and, for the first time in three days, she moaned in reply. I knocked again and her moaning grew angry so I knew she was fine. I wonder sometimes how her painting is progressing as it is many weeks since she withdrew into her room. Luckily, she has an en suite (I do not know how you say that in English) toilet and bathroom or I would worry about her hygiene.
Odile keeps losing consciousness and so she is very careful to walk on something soft like a thick carpet and outside she always walks on grass. A new religion is, of course, the cause. A week ago she embraced the Karambala faith which believes we are born with a finite amount of breaths and as soon as they are used up one dies. As nobody knows how many breaths they have been alloted the Karambalians try to use them up gradually by avoiding breathing whenever possible and breathing only slowly when it is unavoidable. The great Masters of the Karambala religion are, apparently, able to stop breathing for hours on end and never inhale more than once a minute, even when they are sleeping. Odile aims to emulate them and is already able to go for more than a minute without breathing. Sometimes, however, lack of oxygen causes her to pass out. The ultimate aim of the Karambalian Masters is to stop breathing altogether and yet still be able to function. Then they will live for ever. Odile has a long way to go.
Jacques has aged ten years in the past week. He is like a young teenager becoming aware of himself for the first time. He gazes into the mirror, constantly combs his hair and has developed a terrible case of acne. He has also become very moody and disruptive and his disobedience is causing great distress to my mother. He is, at times, ecstatic and full of life and at these times he climbs trees, runs freely across the fields and chases rabbits but, at other times, he sits slumped in an armchair and complains about everything. Nothing is good enough for him and he bemoans the fact that we are not rich. He wonders why we do not have our own helicopter as Jacqueline's family has and blames my father for not working hard enough. This is scandalous. My father drives, most days, a hundred kilometres into the city and attends many meetings. Jacques accused him of spending his days talking, eating and drinking with his friends but he is the director of many very successful companies and they would not be so without his shrewd direction. My father campares himself to a railway engine and the employess to carraiges in a long train. Without his power the carraiges would remain stationary. Jacques replied that without the carraiges the engine would have no purpose. Then my father got angry, said that it was socialist talk, and sent Jacques to his room.
Very soon, dearest Julie, we will be able to put down our pens and express our thoughts to each other face to face. I am getting so excited about it I can hardly sleep at night. Your beautiful name is never very far from my lips and thoughts. I am counting the days until we meet.
With all my love,
13 Beach Street
My kind wonderful darling Jules,
I am sorry if I worried you by talking about prison. I didnt really think it would come to that but the inspector said it could happen and so I told you. Benefits is what they gives you when you dont have no job and every two weeks you got to go to the job centre and sign a form to say you dont have no work and I've done this. I knew it was a bit wrong to take money for alterations but I didnt think it was a real job and I never made much for myself but if your on benefits your not supposed to make any money at all. I saw them this morning and they wants me to write down all the alterations I done and how much I got paid. I cant remember all that. They says that if I dont do it theyre going to make up an estimate. I cant remember back years ago. My benefits are stopped until they works out how much I owes them. I wants to tell them the truth but my dad and all the others says that would be stupid. Its all a bit worrying.
You sent far too much money and I'm sending some of it back. I took it to the bank like you told me and when they said how much English money I was going to get I thought there was a mistake so she told me again and I still couldnt believe it. Its really lots and the dress is not worth all that much. The money you sent didnt look like real money because it was so different from English money and it had funny colours. It even smelled and felt different like it was play money but in the bank they just took it and counted it and then she told me how much English money I was going to get and I couldnt believe it. I asked for it back and then took out some that I'm going to send back to you and got her to change the rest and it still seems like too much for a dress thats not even finished yet. It means that I dont have to take any of my mums money which is nice because she's been saving it up for a long time and its not easy to save much from a cleaners wages.
My dad hasnt touched a drop in four days and he's started talking again. He didnt say a word for two days and he just sat there at the table in the kitchen with his hands all scrunched up and his eyes looking scared and sad. Mum gave him some thin soup that he could suck up with a straw and she put vitimin drops in it like the doctor told her. Suddenly this morning he turns to her and says I'm sorry in this really soft low voice and it sounded like someone else because I never heard him talk like that. He usually talks really loud and if you dont agree with what he says he starts to talk even louder even when your talking yourself. My mum just looks at him and gave him a kiss on the top of his head and didnt say nothing. Thats the first time I ever heard my dad say he was sorry to my mum for anything and he's done lots that he should be sorry for. Some things he done I cant tell you about now but maybe one day when I feels I knows you better.
Kirsty is only going out with Dave Roberts now but while she was going out with both Dave and Mike Norris Dave met Trish on one of the evenings when Kirsty was with Mike if you follow me. Trish used to be a dancer in London but now she works with snakes and she's got these two really huge pythons and she calls herself an exotic dancer. I dont call it dancing because she just stands there and lets the snakes crawl all over her and just because she got music playing it dont mean that its dancing. Anybody could do what she does and even the bit where she strips down to nothing because its only velcro fastenings and not buttons.
Sharon and Keith are acting really strange and I wonder whats happening. I can hear them in the kitchen whispering when I'm in the living room watching telly and last night when Coronation Street was on they stayed out there and thats not like Sharon. She never misses Coronation Street.
Thats one thing I forgot to ask you do they have a telly at your cousins house or do I have to get someone to video the things I dont want to miss. If I'm going to be there for nearly a month and theres no telly I'm going to need a lot of stuff recorded. I been watching Coronation Street since I was a baby and I really follows it. Mrs Lomas down the street said she would record everything I wants because she watches the same things as I watches and always videos everything anyway so she can watch them again later if theres nothing on but its going to take a lot of tapes to record everything I wants. I really hopes theres a telly because I wouldnt know what to do with myself in the evenings. My mum says I can take the black and white portable thats in her room but it would look really strange if I arrived carrying a telly. If they dont have one would it be possible for me to bring that one. What do you think. They could all watch it if they wanted to or I could put it in my room and not play it too loud.
Its going to be really strange sleeping in my own room for a month. I've always shared a room with someone since I was born and even when we've been on holiday to make it cheaper I've always shared with someone usually Kirsty. Its going to be really nice that you'll be in the next room and I can bang on the wall to you. I dont believe this is happening to me and sometimes I wants to pinch myself to see if I'm dreaming. I hope I dont let myself down by saying something stupid to your cousins and they dont ask me loads of difficult questions. My mum says I should just be myself and I think she's right because I cant really be anyone else can I. I dont want to pretend that I'm lah dee dah when I'm not. I always tries to be kind and polite and if thats not good enough then I dont know what is.
You says the nicest things in your letters and when you said you couldnt sleep at night I thought tell me about it. Some nights I gets barely a wink of sleep because I'm thinking about meeting you and all day I dozes in front of the telly because I'm so tired. I feels like taking a nap now.
I'm still on my diet although I'm doing like you said I should do and not starving myself. I'm going to weigh myself tomorrow but everyone already says they can see a difference. I dont see it myself but I must have lost something.
I think I'll go and have a lie down and Sharons going out so I'll get her to post this letter. I'm really looking forward to meeting you.
With all my love,
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